If you have decided to come teach English in Taiwan and done any research, then you have undoubtedly read about the various chain schools that are here (i.e. Hess, Kojen, Giraffe, Joy, Sesame Street, etc).
Many people seem to have a negative opinion of chain schools and I think this is often in large part due to a lot of misinformation on the internet about them.
Both Tim and I have taught at chain schools in the past and we know many others who also have worked at them or continue to work at them, so we have a good understanding of them. I’ll use this post to go over the pros and cons of working at a chain school so that you can decide whether it’s right for you.
If you have more questions about what it’s like to teach English in Taiwan, make sure to check out my FAQ post.
Pros for Teaching English at a Chain
While some independent schools do provide training, many chains provide considerably more training than the average school (especially Hess which has a two week training period). For experienced teachers this may not be that important, but for teachers without any/much experience the training will definitely be helpful.
When I first came to Taiwan I had never taught English before and didn’t really have a clue on how to do it. My first job was at Hess and I found their two week training to be very useful and helpful.
It definitely made the first few months much easier than it would have been (I had friends who arrived at the same time and didn’t receive any training at their school and it took them a lot longer to feel comfortable teaching).
The chains all have set curriculum that they either develop themselves or buy from education companies. I’ve used or seen the curriculum for many chain schools and in general it’s pretty good. Having good curriculum that is structured is important for new teachers because it makes teaching much easier.
For example, at Hess their curriculum was very regimented (i.e. 30 minutes for reading, 20 minutes for phones, 20 minute conversation activity, etc.), and each lesson had a clear outline of what needed to be taught and when it should be taught.
I found this to be very helpful because it let me focus on the actual teaching instead of spending a long time trying to figure out what or how to teach.
Most chains have been around for a long time so the chances of them disappearing or going out of business and not honoring a contract is highly unlikely. Many chains can also offer you a guaranteed number of hours each month, which is a big plus in my book because you’ll always know your minimum salary each month.
Additionally, there usually aren’t any problems with getting paid on time (this isn’t a big problem anywhere, but I do know of friends who work at smaller schools and occasionally had issues getting paid on time).
Finally, these schools often have good relationships with the various government bodies that regulate buxibans, so they can usually sort out any problems that might arise.
This isn’t true for every chain, but some chain schools have western management in place to handle English teachers.
For example, at Hess, nearly every school has a head foreign teacher who is in charge of managing all the foreign teachers. Having another foreigner as a manager can be helpful in sorting out problems that may come up, especially related to cultural differences.
Of course no matter where you go you will still need to work with Taiwanese management, but having another foreigner that you can report to can be very useful, especially in your first year of teaching English in Taiwan.
Cons for Teaching English at a Chain
Pay can be lower
This certainly isn’t always the case (many small schools pay the same as chains, and some chains pay very well), but in general chain schools pay a little less than the average teaching salary in Taiwan. This wasn’t a huge deal for me, but I did have friends that were making 50-100 NTD an hour more than I was when I first started (of course I also had friends that made the same as what I did).
Ultimately, you need to decide whether it’s worth taking the higher salary and giving up some of the benefits that chains may provide (i.e. a guaranteed number of hours).
Can’t choose location
This one is only true for places like Hess and a few other chains that recruit overseas. While you can usually specify an area(s) that you would like to be placed, they ultimately will decide where to place you. If you are set on a specific city or area (i.e. you have friends here, you’ve heard good things about a certain place, etc.) then you may want to skip working for a chain that won’t guarantee a specific location.
However, if you don’t have a specific place you want to go, then this can actually be part of the adventure of moving abroad.
Taipei is great, but so are a lot of other cities and depending on what you’re looking for, going somewhere else may be a better option (see: where to live in Taiwan). I taught in Tainan for 2 years and am really happy that I had the opportunity to experience life there, which I wouldn’t have if I was set on staying in one location.
For people Teaching English in Taiwan for the first time, having a set and regimented curriculum is great. However, if you are an experienced teacher and know how to teach English, then having such a rigid structure may not be appealing.
Note: many smaller schools often have strict curriculum as well, but they often are a little more relaxed.